HANFORD — With their deepest regrets, Kings County Fire Department officials announced Saturday the line-of-duty death of Fire Apparatus Engineer Keith Hernandez.
Hernandez, 30, died in the early-morning hours of Feb. 23 at Stanford Medical Center after a hard-fought battle with rhabdomyosarcoma. He was a five-year veteran with the Kings County Fire Department.
“Keith Hernandez was proud to be a firefighter and loved his career,” Clay Smith, Kings County Fire Chief, said in a press release. “He will be deeply missed by family, friends and colleagues alike.”
Hernandez was born in Fresno and raised in Clovis, where he attended Clovis East High School and graduated in 2006. He knew pretty early on that he wanted to be some type of first responder.
He worked for various agencies in the fire service including Cal Fire Sonoma Lake Napa Unit as a seasonal firefighter for five years, Fresno County Fire Protection District as a seasonal paid call firefighter for one year, and Clovis Fire Department as an Explorer for three years.
Hernandez was hired by the Kings County Fire Department in June 2013 as a fire apparatus engineer, where he served the rural areas of our county for the past five years.
He was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer, in late 2017.
Hernandez was married to his wife, Crystal, for over five years and they have two children, 4-year-old daughter Henley and 1-year-old son Harper.
In an interview with the Sentinel in February 2018, Hernandez said although his diagnosis came as a shock, his entire family, including his parents, siblings and “fire family” were extremely supportive.
Along with several fundraisers and a GoFundMe page, firefighters from all over including Hanford, Visalia and Fresno helped the Hernandez family over the last year with meals, yardwork and anything else they needed so Hernandez could focus on his health.
Hernandez also told the Sentinel that the one bright spot during his battle was the time he got to spend with his family.
“I’ve always enjoyed family but it’s been a push to count my blessings,” he said last year. “It made me realize exactly what was important in my life.”
Besides his wife and children, Hernandez is also survived by his parents Anthony and Patricia Hernandez, brothers Anthony and Timothy Hernandez, sister Alyssa Hernandez and parent in-laws Hector and Molly De La Cruz.
An over 200-mile procession took place on Sunday from Stanford Medical Center to the Salser & Dillard Funeral Chapel in Visalia. Along the way, members of various fire and law enforcement agencies showed their respect with flags and salutes.
Expressions of sympathy or condolences for the family or the department may be sent to Kings County Fire Department, 280 Campus Drive, Hanford, or by calling 852-2881.